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“People among People!” in Polotsk: information to children about persons with disabilities


Polotsk pupils are told about life of persons with disabilities. “People among People!” – is a series of information events held in Polotsk schools with the support of the Office for the rights of persons with disabilities (Belarus) and “School of leaders” (Poland) by two local NGOs – association of parents raising children with disabilities “Strumok” and sport club of young disabled “Prometei”. Initiators of the program Natalia Pronkina, Sergei Butko and Svetlana Maslovskaya told why there was a necessity in such meetings and how pupils understand information about persons with disabilities.

Integration starting from school

Information meetings with pupils of 7-11th grades of Polotsk and Polotsk district schools are held in order to tell pupils about persons with disabilities. The society should be prepared for accepting persons with disabilities the organizers say.

-          The information program will help us to integrate persons with disabilities to the society. We want children, starting from school, to know that such people live near them. Today school program doesn’t even mention the existence of such people. But children should know that there are such people living nearby and they have to study to understand them – says a member of “Strumok” organization Natalia Pronkina.

The program will last a month and in this time the organizers are planning to hold an event in every school of the city and the district. 8 such meetings have already been held.

-          Teachers like our events very much. If we hold a meeting in a school for one class they ask us to return again and do the same for another one. So, there is a possibility that the program will continue the next month, - Natalia is sharing her plans.

The Office has supported the realization of the program in the frames of its project “Act with unlimited possibilities – 2014”. According to the organizers there were no problems to get permission from the local authorities. The district executive committee immediately gave the permission to hold these events in city and district schools.

“Just imagine yourselves without arms…”

Natalia together with the head of cultural and sport club “Prometei” Sergei Butko told pupils in interactive form about the work of their organizations, people with disabilities from Polotsk, famous people with disabilities who managed to succeed in spite of their disabilities: Stephen Hawking, Franklin Roosevelt, Ray Charles, Albert Einstein.

People with disabilities can do whatever they want. It depends on the wish of a person – Sergei Butko comments the parts of a program about extreme sportsman who does tricks in a wheelchair.

One of the key moments of the event is a game thanks to it healthy children can understand and feel how people with disabilities live. Every child gets his “role” – blind, deaf-mute, without arms or legs or just without fixed residence and employment – and they have to make a simple action, for example draw a flower. People are actively playing their roles and are looking for a possibility to fulfill the task, for example, “blind” ones cooperate with “wheelchair-bound” ones.

- We clearly see how children change after the game. In questionnaires we give them they write that they will not be afraid of people with disabilities and will respect them – says Natalia.

Personal stories

Disability topic is very close to every organizer of the events. Sergei Butko became a disabled person at the age of 26 – he made an unsuccessful leap into the water and broke his spine, now he is actively helping young disabled to live a full life and organizes for “Prometei’s” participants different competitions and sport contests.

Five years ago Natalia gave birth to a girl with Down Syndrome. Vera is an active lively girl, very kind and cheerful. Her mother often takes her to meetings to schools.

- We come to children and tell them our stories. They see persons with disabilities and are able to understand the information much better, - says Natalia.

152 families raising children with disabilities are registered in Polotsk. Only 2 out of 28 kindergartens have integrated groups where children with disabilities study together with other children. But many people from Polotsk even don’t know that there are so many people with disabilities living in their city, because you can see them in streets on rare occasions. And all such children need socialization. That is why the organizers want the society to get to know more about these people and to learn not to be afraid of them.

- I want that when my daughter goes to school other children at school would know about such kids and wouldn’t be afraid of them. Young people should know that such things happen and that they shouldn’t be afraid of it. Doctors in maternity hospitals sometimes offer to abandon a child with a disability, they say “You gave a birth to a plant”. But these kids are cheerful, communicate the same way as the others but learn to do things a bit longer, - says Natalia.

After the meeting in Gymnasium №2 we asked children to share their impressions about the event.

Alexander, 11th grade:

- Most of all I was impressed by a video about a girl without arms who does everything with her feet: drives a car, takes care of a child. During the game I played a person without arms and understood that it is very difficult. I always treated such people with respect and will continue to do it.

Alexander, 11th grade:

- During the game I played a role of a deaf-mute person. When you play the game you understand that you can’t hear and speak but anyway you have to get information and to communicate with other people. It is very difficult to do if the environment is not helping…

Victoria, 11th grade:

- I felt what a person with disability feels. According to the script I had to take a pen and write something down but it was very difficult because I couldn’t use my hands. Before it I have never thought about it and now I will!